College Football Week 1: 5 Days, 5 Games

By Emily Van Buskirk / @Emilnem

From months, weeks and days to the hours and minutes, we can finally stop the countdown.

Media day teasers have been great, but fans are salivating for the good stuff as we draw ever closer to the start of a new college football season. Plenty of questions kept us occupied in the offseason. Who will replace Marcus Mariota as Oregon’s QB? Can anyone beat Urban Meyer's Buckeyes? Can Florida State keep its players out of trouble? Will USC’s preseason ranking continue to be its undoing?

While all these questions won’t be answered right away, Week 1 of the 2015-16 college football season is packed with games to pique your interest, and we have a watch guide for you to plan your weekend around.

Thursday, September 3: Michigan at Utah (Fox Sports 1, 8:30 p.m. ET)

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 20: Devin Funchess #1 of the Michigan Wolverines can't hold on to a first quarter pass while being hit by Brian Blechen #4 of the Utah Utes on September 20, 2014 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 20: Devin Funchess #1 of the Michigan Wolverines can't hold on to a first quarter pass while being hit by Brian Blechen #4 of the Utah Utes on September 20, 2014 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

If this game doesn’t start the college football season off with a bang, nothing will. Everyone in America is ready to see Jim Harbaugh make his triumphant return to the collegiate gridiron. His offseason shirtless escapades have only added to the anticipation.

“With all this hype, you would think they hired Beyoncé or something,” joked Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham at a Rotary event back in June.

But when Big Blue comes to Sack Lake City on a chilly Thursday night in September, all that hype will be checked at the door to Rice-Eccles against the pluckiest team in the nation. The Big House is one thing, but as Harbaugh will quickly learn, you don’t mess with the Muss. The last time these two teams met, the Utes emerged victorious despite hours of lightning delays. In fact, the Utes have won two straight games against the Wolverines. Michigan has never played in Utah or on Thursday night, and Utah’s tough, gritty squad, the kind of team Harbaugh hopes to shape Michigan into, combined with the suffocating RES atmosphere will make it difficult for Big Blue, no matter whom they name as starting quarterback.

Friday, September 4: Baylor at SMU (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET)


This game will be fun to watch for two reasons: because Art Briles refuses to schedule any non-conference games that the Bears would ever be in danger of losing, yet he believes Baylor deserved one of the four playoff spots last season. Thus, this game at SMU will serve as the starting point for Baylor’s retribution campaign. And it won’t be as easy as everyone thinks.

Sure, SMU finished 1-11 last season and its scoring margin was -363, but this year, under new defensive coordinator Van Malone, the Mustangs have switched to a 4-2-5 scheme. This will help SMU bring speed to the secondary while avoiding physical mismatches up front. Also, there is junior dual-threat quarterback Matt Davis surrounded by a veteran receiving corps.

This game will not likely be close, but the loss of Bryce Petty at the Baylor helm and a secondary that gave up 264.2 passing yards per game last season will give SMU an opening, however slight it might be.

Saturday, September 5: Arizona State vs. Texas A&M in Houston (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET)


With a slew of games to choose from on Saturday, this Pac-12 vs. SEC match-up feels appropriate to finally help settle the best conference debate. Not saying winner takes all, but it will seriously boost bragging rights.

ASU is expected to be a force in the Pac-12 South this year, despite losing quarterback Taylor Kelly and his 145.7 passer rating. The Sun Devils return 12 starters, including slot receiver D.J. Foster, who caught 62 passes for 688 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 1,081 yards off of 194 carries for nine more touchdowns. The Aggies' total defense ranked 102nd in the nation last year, so ASU head coach Todd Graham will no doubt use that to his advantage.

But Graham should beware the dynamic, explosive offense that A&M brings to the table: 12th in the nation in passing and 26th in scoring last year. Sophomore quarterback Kyle Allen, an Arizona native, boasts a 139.5 QB rating and a 61.5 completion percentage. But the Aggies' defense will have to make stops if they want to back up those potential points and ultimately beat ASU.

Sunday, September 6: Purdue at Marshall (Fox Sports 1, 3 p.m. ET)


As Sunday is universally recognized as the day of rest, this game seems wildly appropriate. It is also consequently the only FBS game on.

Purdue, coming off a rough couple of years, will be looking to start this season off with a big win to set the tone. Marshall will be tough to do that against though, as the Thundering Herd is predicted to be in contention for the Conference USA title thanks to the magical recruiting of head coach Doc Holliday. The Boilermakers return junior quarterback Austin Appleby, but they must replace two of their top running backs — and somehow stop the bleeding in the defense that allowed eight of their 12 opponents last season to score 30 points of more.

Marshall’s defense last season was solid, but the Thundering Herd lost its top cornerback Darryl Roberts and the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year, linebacker Neville Hewitt. But the biggest concern for defensive coordinator Chuck Heater will be the lack of a proven pass rush.

Monday, September 7: Ohio State at Virginia Tech (ESPN, 8 pm ET.)


Two names: Urban Meyer and Cardale Jones. As if we haven’t gotten enough of the junior quarterback on Twitter this offseason, seeing him manage a game live couldn’t come soon enough. With the news in that Braxton Miller will be playing H-back for the Buckeyes — a hybrid receiver position — it seems the embarrassment of riches head coach Meyer has at his disposal will be utilized all over the field.

Poor Virginia Tech. Not the most fun way to start the season, facing off against what will basically feel like the same team (seven returning starters on both sides of the ball) that won the national championship last year. But Frank Beamer’s Hokies do return 16 starters, including senior quarterback Michael Brewer, who threw for 18 touchdowns and 2,692 yards last season. The downside: He also threw 15 interceptions, 11 coming in the first six games. The Buckeyes have two experienced guys in the secondary in Tyvis Powell and Vonn Bell, so Brewer better beware. Bell recorded six interceptions for Ohio State last year.

At the end of the day, any game will prove worth watching, despite what side of the ball you are on. Because college football is finally back!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *